Mammoth Norwalk BoE meeting to tackle new schools, food service, CGS, middle school music…

Educational Specifications at two proposed new Norwalk schools are just part of the agenda for Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

NORWALK, Conn. — The Board of Education is taking on a “colossal” amount of work at its Tuesday meeting, in the words of its chairman, Mike Lyons.

BoE member Shirley Mosby put it another way: the packet for the meeting is 350 pages long, she said.

While the BoE won’t be voting on controversial budget cuts after all, thanks to the mayor’s office prompting another effort at negotiations, it’s facing an unusually heavy load, all of it of significant import. That includes educational specifications for two new schools and efforts to upgrade the schools’ food service.

The BoE will start, after what may be a lengthy public participation component, with the superintendent’s report:

  • A focus on the Center for Global Studies
  • An update on plans for a dyslexia clinic
  • A model to offer middle school instrument lessons without ‘pull-out’ from academic classes


The BoE will then tackle the appointment of Scott Hurwitz as the new Brien McMahon High School principal, before moving on to a weighty issue: revising the operating plan for the Center for Global Studies.

An excerpt from the meeting packet:

“The Issue: Since its inception in 1991, CGS was designated a school-within-a-school, and CGS students were allowed to take 2-3 ‘CGS classes’ through CGS and the remainder of their classes through BMHS.

“This is no longer the case. The state no longer recognizes the ‘school-within-a-school’ designation, so CGS must modify its operating plan if we wish to continue receiving full-time funding.”

So, although there are no budget upgrades to the school, CGS needs to step up its game.

“Due to the state-wide freeze on Magnet School Grants in 2015, CGS is still anticipating budget shortfalls beginning in 2018, and we continue to work on long-term solutions to fully fund our school,” the memo written by CGS Director Julie Parham states.

A plan was developed in November to ensure all CGS students receive 900 hours of magnet-themed instructional time, Parham’s memo states, offering this detail:

“CGS students will have 6 new semester-long CGS course requirements that focus on cultural and language studies, and they will see our focus on international-mindedness integrated into math, science, art, and so on.  And although CGS students and BMHS students will see less of each other during core classes and some electives, they will still be together in other elective classes, study halls, lunches, sports, clubs, and extracurriculars. Our mutual focus on IB will help continue our positive culture of collaboration and cooperation between BMHS and CGS.”


The Ed Specs issue will follow the vote on the CGS plan, with plans for Ponus Ridge Magnet School going first.

Labs at the proposed Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) magnet school will have an oceanography component, a saltwater aquarium tank/environment in operation 24/7, the drafted Ponus Ed Specs report says. A mix of semi-traditional lab classrooms will be combined with several new science labs.

“The core Ed Specs team has selected the Charles H Barrows Magnet school in Windham as a model school to benchmark and use as an example of K-8 STEM education. For numerous reasons, Barrows embodies many of the desired criteria for K-8 STEM education,” the report says.

“There will be two new engineering labs capable of supporting benches for work on Cisco routers, electronic components, 3-D printing, modeling components, assembly, and robotics. The lower grades will be served by a ‘Lego Lab’ which ranges from the simple blocks to the mechanized robots, vehicles etc., and will need storage and age appropriate furniture,” the Ed Specs state. “…The Learning Commons (formerly library or media center) will be led by a media curator, with the goal of engaging, interactive, collaborative, and dynamic personal learning available to staff and students. The commons are analogs to the school ‘village green’ where the school will showcase high quality teaching and learning.”

The school will build on the Teach to One Math program pioneered in Norwalk at Nathan Hale Middle School, the document states.

The Nathaniel Ely School Ed Specs describes the Bank Street model used at Columbus Magnet School, and its hoped for expansion at Ely.

“The new school is to be an inviting, inspirational, open, secure, 21st century learning environment including technology, ample access to daylight and the engagement of the community immediately around the school(s),” the Ed Specs state. “…The use of an assembly space, such as a Cafetorium, as well as the gymnasium would benefit the association and the community. This South Norwalk location for a ‘community school’ has been a long-term dream of numerous past and present leaders. Because these spaces have not existed in the adjacent South Norwalk community in the past, the development of this type of school community can only be imagined.”

The drafted Ed Specs for the two schools, written with the help of consulting firm Silver Petrucelli & Associates, also contain some overlapping material.

“The kitchen and cafeteria experience is changing across the NPS,” both documents state. “A recent food service study suggests a systematic change to the food service for the entire approximately 12,600 students served daily. The new kitchen should be designed for preparing and serving from scratch meals with more fresh and local foods, eliminating frozen, and prepackaged meals… The cafeteria experience is changing radically, too. The lunch experience is by far one of the greatest stressors in the school system, from timing, noise, allergies, dietary choices, and inclusion, and it is clear the entire lunch experience needs to change from the current ‘prison/military’ style to a family/community or Progressive education dining experience.”

The Ed Specs are followed on the agenda by another vote on the West Rocks Middle School window replacement projects, and then three items related to – food.

The BoE is set to vote on:

  • Approval of food service consultant’s report and recommendations
  • Approval of Whitson’s Food Services Management Company Contract Amendment No. 1 for 2017-18 School Year
  • Approval of FY 2017-18 food services budget proposal


Although John Turenne of Sustainable Food Systems, LLC recently outlined food services recommendations to the Board without optimism that much could be achieved in the short term, a list of goals has been laid out for the Spring, Summer and Fall.

That includes salad bars at three or four elementary schools and expansion of middle school salad bars. A new synchronized menu for elementary and middle schools would foster meals from scratch and an ethnic menu would be available once a week.

A goal for this summer aims to upgrade staff culinary training:

“Conduct food service staff Boot Camps. Use an opportunity to gather staff during closed periods to introduce them to the new concepts, build team collaboration and to begin teaching the technical skills needed. This may be conducted on a regular basis several times a year.”

Regarding the Whitsons’ contract, Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton wrote, “Whitsons has agreed to provide the District with a new Food Services Director under their contract, and we are in the process of reviewing the candidate that they have proposed. We hope to have a new Director on board at the beginning of the fiscal year. In addition, Whitsons will be providing the District with a new position of Executive Chef, as recommended by the outside consultant.  This position will be charged with improving the quality of the food that we serve by developing strategies to employ more scratch cooking in the District’s food service operation.”

Hamilton also explains that the new food services budget would expand the breakfast in the classrooms program and try to reduce the use of disposable tableware.

“The proposed FY 2017-18 budget totals $4,486,175, a 3.4% increase over the original FY 2016-17 budget,” Hamilton wrote. “Compared to the revised budget for FY 2016-17, the proposed budget for next year represents a slight decrease of .4%. Approximately 70% of the revenue to support Food Services comes from grants, and the balance comes from food sales and catering. We are projecting that the expansion of the Breakfast Program will generate an additional $48,000.”

Those agenda items are followed by an interschool agreement with Side By Side Charter School, contract amendments regarding transportation of students, extending Adamowksi leeway with fiscal year-ending budget transfers, Board member reports – and an executive session on personnel matters.

“It is a colossal agenda,” Lyons said in an email to NancyOnNorwalk.

Mosby, at the District B meeting, said she’d been busy over the weekend and planned to go home and study the 350-page packet.

The public packet is 230 pages long, with 40 pages devoted to the CGS operating plan, 29 pages of Ponus Ed Specs, 27 pages of Ely Ed Specs and 27 pages of food services information.

“I am going to do the best I can with it because… We get what we get,” Mosby said. “No fault to the people who put it out there, it was given to us Friday night at 8:30.”


2 responses to “Mammoth Norwalk BoE meeting to tackle new schools, food service, CGS, middle school music…”

  1. Oh yea

    I ponder as to why all of this STEM is actually a necessity for the NPS. How will this better serve the majority (Hispanic) students? We are cutting kindergarten aides so schools like Ponus can have a fish tank. Makes sense!!?

  2. Barbara Meyer-Mitchell

    The average starting salary for a college graduate in the U.S. is $50,556. The average starting salary for a STEM graduate is $73,700. Clearly, investing in STEM education for our kids is both an investment in their futures, but also in our own community. A recent visit to the Smithsonian museum highlighted for me the fact that CT was an innovation hub in its early history, through a confluence of factors. CT residents held the highest number of patents of any state in the union, which led to our historical prosperity. If we want to be leaders of innovation and prosperity again, we must prepare the next generation to step into those roles. STEM education is not just fish tanks, but rather developing critical thinking and creative problem solving.

Leave a Reply

Recent Comments